Following a night off on Monday, the Philadelphia Phillies are back at it on Tuesday night as they start a two-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays. These will be the first of four games against their Canadian counterparts this season with the subsequent two coming in mid-August. Despite their recent six-game skid, the Phillies (16-19) are entering this series on a high note following their victory over the Boston Red Sox Sunday afternoon.
Fun Connection Between the Phillies and Blue Jays
Now, we all know the Phillies and Blue Jays are in many ways kindred spirits in the baseball world. Residing in neighboring towns in Spring Training (Clearwater and Dunedin), the teams often play each other in Spring Training. Additionally, the Phillies and Blue Jays have seen 96 players play for both teams over the years. Notably, of course, is Roy Halladay, along with Mickey Morandini, Scott Rolen, and Jayson Werth to name a few. Currently, the Phillies have two Blue Jays alumni on their roster – Taijuan Walker and Andrew Vasquez.
But I bet you didn’t know this one. Blue Jay’s manager John Schneider, originally of Princeton, N.J., came from a baseball family. His brother, Kevin Schneider, is the owner of Emery Glove Co., the preferred glove of Phillies’ right fielder Nick Castellanos. Kevin Schneider was previously the head coach at Division III Immaculata University before growing Emery.
A Look at the Phillies’ Opposition
The Blue Jays currently stand in third place in the American League East with a 21-14 record. The AL East continues to defy all logic as the New York Yankees stand in last in the division with a positive record of 18-17. Most of the Blue Jays’ magic has been at home, where they are 9-3, standing 12-11 on the road.
Statistically, the Phillies’ and Blue Jays offenses are incredibly similar so far this season. With respective .752 and .756 OPS, the Jays barely eclipse the Phillies in the category. In all reality, the Phillies have hit slightly more extra-base hits at 114 versus 110 while the main difference on the Blue Jays’ side is in their 35 additional walks, showing better plate discipline. That discipline has yielded 11 more runs thus far for the Blue Jays through the first 35 games.
Pitching-wise, the Blue Jays are in the middle of the pack with a 4.06 ERA on the year while the Phillies have left much to be desired from the mound with a 5.03 ERA, but more on the pitching matchups shortly.
Offensively, the Blue Jays are traversing the 2023 season with a mix of veteran bats and young power. Veterans George Springer, Whit Merrifield, Matt Chapman, Kevin Kiermaier, and Brandon Belt have all been around the block and are not to be trifled with. The real stars of the show, however, lie in the young core of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Daulton Varsho. Guerrero Jr. and BIchette lead the team with seven home runs on the year while Varsho has proven to have solid power and speed as well.
Top-Tier Matchups in the Two-Game Set
Tuesday, May 9 – Aaron Nola vs. Alek Manoah
Phillies fans have made clear their displeasure in the slow start for ace Aaron Nola. Most recently, Nola allowed four runs over 6.1 innings of work in Los Angeles. He did leave that contest in line for the win before a blown save from Jose Alvarado and a poor ninth from Craig Kimbrel had other plans. Previously, Nola registered his best start of the season, going 8.0 innings against Houston, allowing one run.
Alek Manoah is the Blue Jays’ ace and one of the best young arms in the League. Similarly to Nola, Manoah is not off to a strong note to start his year, owning a 4.71 ERA. His most recent appearance came against the Boston Red Sox, going 5.0 innings while allowing five runs (two earned) on eight hits.
Bonus Matchup: Dollar Dog Night Edition – Phillies Fans Vs. Aramark
It’s no secret that the Phillies’ Dollar Dog Nights have not gone well so far this year. With crazy lines abounding, it has seemed as if Aramark has treated these nights as if it were any other. Part of the blame has been placed on hold-ups due to all concession stands being cashless at Citizens Bank Park, but I believe that understaffing is a major part of the issue as well.
If you (like me) plan on attending Tuesday’s Dollar Dog Night, let me give you a few strategies to employ.
First, get there when gates open. If you are in line as the Bank opens at 5:35 P.M., then you stand the best chance at getting in line before the masses. And, if you are forced to wait in line, you will likely do so before first pitch.
Second, if you plan on using cash, only go to some of the mobile Dollar Dog vendors. There should be several across the Bank on Tuesday night and they will likely hold less of a line as well. Remember that Citizens Bank Park is still cashless and only the mobile vendors still accept cash.
Third, utilize the four hot dog per-customer allowance. For the hot dog connoisseur, you were already planning on doing so. For those with normal appetites, if you think you are only going to eat one hot dog, get two. If you only plan to eat two, get four. Better have an extra hot dog than have to get back in line. Just do me a favor, don’t throw your hot dog on the field.
Wednesday, May 10 – Zack Wheeler vs. Kevin Gausman
One night and 50,000 hot dogs later, the second half of the pitching matchup is just as good as the first.
Wheeler enters the game following a 5.1 inning outing against Boston in which he allowed four runs. Overall, Wheeler is still finding his groove on the year, currently standing at a 4.26 ERA overall.
Gausman, meanwhile, has been his usual strong self with a 3.86 ERA on the season. He is, however, coming off a blow-up outing in Boston having allowing eight runs in only 3.1 innings of work. In his seven starts this season, Gausman has left scoreless in four of them.
What This Series Means For the Phillies
The Phillies’ win against the Red Sox on Sunday certainly started to wash the bad taste of the six-game skid out of everyone’s mouth. With a West Coast trip against the struggling Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants on the horizon, the Phillies need to at least split this set with the Blue Jays to remain on good footing heading into Coors Field.
Now with Bryce Harper back and working his way into mid-season hittin’ shape, the Phillies’ bats will continue to heat up as the summer months approach. Finishing this stretch of matchups against playoff-potential teams with a sweep could only help, however.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum